let’s have a new conversation about kony.

A few folks have asked my thoughts about the Kony2012 campaign. It has brought a lot of attention to an issue that’s close to my heart, as Uganda was my second home from 2007-2009 and I had an opportunity to (briefly) visit the North during that time. Since watching the video, I have taken several days to breathe, think, and read up. Here’s my take.

The Distracting Debate

Even though I have strong feelings, I don’t really want to wade into a crowded debate that centers around Invisible Children- their choice of narrative, financial priorities, etc. There’s plenty of information and opinion about the campaign itself out there. Here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and the several views here are good starting points for a somewhat reasoned cross-section of discourse. If you prefer unreasoned ranting, there’s plenty available in comments sections. Most of all, I’d suggest reading several African views (there are many and more are online each day) and making up your own mind about what kind of organizations, messages, and actions you want to support.

I’d also like to make a case for avoiding false dichotomies and single stories.

A Different Conversation

Looking forward, I think the most important discussion isn’t one that centers around the methods of an American organization but focuses on the needs of actual children and their communities in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. Since people around the world are paying attention in greater numbers than before, three worthwhile questions for informed advocacy and action seem to be:

  1. How has this situation been allowed to go on for decades?
  2. What is the situation today?
  3. What are the best ways to lend support going forward?

These next three posts will be an imperfect attempt at some answers and will likely produce more questions. [Note 4/2/12: Sure enough, this has grown. Part 4 is a compilation of videos depicting many African perspectives on the LRA conflict, part 5 is my final reflection, and part 6 is a sort of post-script with an important link about how to let critical thought guide emotional reactions to advocacy.]

Take what follows with whatever grains of salt you deem necessary. My views are colored by my experiences and my identity. I know more about the situation and its context in Uganda than in DRC, CAR, and South Sudan, but I’m far from an expert. I’ll try to link tons of legit sources. I apologize in advance for errors or omissions. I’d also like to encourage interested people to comment, preferably in a civil way that encourages further learning, listening, and thought.

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2 Responses to let’s have a new conversation about kony.

  1. Steve says:

    I really appreciate this move toward a closer look at how the issues surrounding the LRA might be best addressed. You are asking vital questions toward this end and while I imagine I’m less of an expert than you are, I hope I can also help to move this discussion forward in meaningful ways.
    You’ll forgive me if I do not check out your links to the Invisible Children (IC) debate as I’m already pretty burned out on that subject. I really hope that we can shed some helpful light on this issue, and that others are not so burned out on the IC debate that they’ll also take interest and participate in this discussion.

    • emlsewhere says:

      Thanks, Steve. I’d be really interested to know what important issues I’ve overlooked in these outlines. I’m particularly concerned that I’m not as knowledgeable about the past or current situation in eastern DRC as I am about Uganda, because I think that will prove extremely important moving forward. If you have any reliable sources on recent DRC history and politics (even a good book or two), I’d really like some recommendations.

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